Plant lovers know that when your favorite flora is looking a little puny and the soil is bone dry, you need to add water. It’s a given: Moisture is a key element in a plant’s healthy growth cycle. But when and how much varies. And that doesn’t even cover the misting issue!
There is a legion of growers with green thumbs who swear by adding a spritz or so of water to increase the humidity level and coax their favorite fern or philodendron to shine. This bunch believes that the misting mimics certain plants’ natural habits, helping them be more healthy.
A whole other group of enthusiasts and experts alike scoff at the notion, saying that adding a little moisture here and there does nothing to the actual humidity level around the plants. In fact, this side says adding water in this way can contribute to the risk of pests and plant disease.
Social channels across the internet have become friendly battlegrounds on this point, but who is the winner? We talked to a couple of plant experts to get their thoughts on that seminal question: To mist or not to mist? Yes, that is our question.
Meet the Expert
- Sonya Harris is a Master Gardener and a founder of the award-winning Bullock Children’s Garden in New Jersey.
- Kamili Bell Hill is a plant enthusiast and popular plant Instagrammer @plantblerd.
- Barbara Gillette is a Master Gardener with 30 years of gardening experience. She holds a variety of accolades.
To Mist or Not to Mist
“Misting can be valuable,” says Sonya Harris, a Master Gardener. “It’s not something people should do every day though, and not every plant needs it.”
This point seems to have traction among the internet aficionados as well. You can easily find lists of which plants tend to do well with a mist here and there and which do not. The trick, it seems, is knowing in which camp your green darling is planted.
“So often now, people are buying house plants without really researching their native environments,” Harris says. “If a plant is tropical to the floors of an ecosystem, it may benefit from a more humid environment with periodic misting (weekly or biweekly). If you have a house plant that can grow large enough to become a member of the understory it may need less misting but more humidity. My advice is to always thoroughly research the natural environment of the plant.”
Plant enthusiast Kamili Bell Hill agrees with the point of doing your research on plants’ native habitat but disagrees on the usefulness of the practice.
“Misting is complete and utterly useless,” Bell Hill says. “It does not raise the humidity, but it can be a part of your plant care in that it can be peaceful and soothing for you. But it does nothing for the plant.”
Even plants that tend to like humidity naturally won’t necessarily respond well to misting. “For example, begonias like humidity but they don’t like their leaves to be wet,” Bell Hill says.
Know Your Plants
Master Gardener Barbara Gillette says you need to really know your plants to make the mist or no mist decision. "Are the leaves fuzzy? Leaves with hairlike structures are sometimes referred to as glaucous or pubescent and usually cause the plant to be drought-tolerant," she says. An example is an African violet. Gillette says that too much water for these types of plants will rot the hairlike structures and the leaves.
She also said to consider whether your plant roots are in soil, such as epiphytes like orchids or air plants. "These plants rely on water and light to energize. Misting is good," she says.
Most houseplants will thrive just fine without misting, Gillette says. Epiphytes will benefit though from a light misting every morning. "If possible, place your orchids near a vent close to an east-facing window. Place your mister so that the spray is directed into the air surrounding your plant. Set your mister on a timer for 10 to 15 minutes mid-morning," she suggests. "Alternately, set the plants in a tray of pebbles and hand-mist the pebbles and leaves with a mist sprayer. Avoid spraying directly onto the leaves. You want to create moisture in the air around the leaves. Or you can use a glass dome. Spray lightly and cover the plant with a glass dome. You may need to remove the dome if you see excessive moisture the plant has not taken up after several days. This will look like too much water accumulating on the inside of the glass. If using a dome, it will not be necessary to mist as often. Check after two weeks and reapply if needed."
Group Like With Like
If you have a variety of plants that are native to all types of climates, Harris has tips for that, too. “For those who like more frequent misting, group them close together,” she says. Though she is in the no-misting camp, Bell Hill agrees on the grouping strategy for plants that are meant for a more humid atmosphere—but from the bottom up. “Plants produce a little humidity when they are together. They help each other,” she says. She suggests placing pebbles on a tray, then adding some water. Place your potted plants on the tray, with saucers below the pots. This will generate a little localized humidity that will please the plants, Bell Hill says.
“It will help a little,” she says. “But it is never going to mimic their native environments.”
In some cases, the plant you love just might not be viable where you live. Bell Hill says it’s best to choose plants that you can coax into acclimating to your environment and accept that not everything is going to grow in your home or garden.
So who wins this skirmish over spraying? It seems the victors are knowledge and moderation. If misting makes you happy, spray away, as long as you don’t overdo it. However, if you are misting because you believe it helps your little flora friends grow, you might be better off skipping the task.